At California Saturday afternoon in Berkeley, the Buffs face an opponent that Hawkins calls "very talented across the board . . . they've got great skill everywhere and good speed, for sure."
In particular, he could be focusing on Cal super freshman Keenan Allen, who accounted for 158 of his offense's 517 total yards in a 52-3 rout of UC-Davis last weekend. Allen caught four passes for 120 yards, including a 48-yard TD reception from Kevin Riley, and ran for 38 yards, including an 18-yard TD.
But Allen isn't the lone gun in Cal's holster. Tailback Shane Vereen played a half against UCD, rushing for 70 yards and a pair of touchdowns and catching a TD pass. Wide receiver Marvin Jones' five receptions netted 81 yards and a score. But the Bears' biggest noisemaker on opening day was Allen.It's only been one game, but he appears ready to add his name to a list of Golden Bears playmakers such as DeSean Jackson, Jahvid Best, et al.
"He made some big plays (Saturday) . . . he can do almost anything, I think. He's a great athlete," coach Jeff Tedford said. "I would assume he's going to be able to compete on any stage. He's kind of unflappable. I don't think he's caught up on the big stage at all. He has a lot of confidence in his ability, but he's very low key about it."
Later in the season, the gifted Allen, a 6-foot-3, 195-pounder from Greensboro, N.C., even could be used on defense, probably as a nickel back. But for now, particularly after his brilliant college debut, Tedford apparently has Allen slotted to play offense only. Nice call.
Asked on Monday's Big 12 coaches' teleconference about the possibility of CU's defense taking Allen out of his game, Hawkins said, "That's kind of hard; you can't. He's pretty explosive (and) that'll be a huge challenge for us."
Based on its opening-day performance in a 24-3 win against Colorado State, CU's defense could be up to the Cal/Allen challenge. Hawkins said his 'D' "did a nice job in all phases - they got sacks (three), turnovers (three interceptions), controlled the running game (CSU gained 49 yards), didn't give up big plays (a 20-yard run, a pair of 18-yard receptions) . . . It was a pretty solid effort by those guys."
In matching up with Allen and Jones, a 6-2, 200-pound junior, CU senior corners Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown will encounter more size, speed and skill than anyone the Buffs faced in the opener. Allen made an impression on Bears quarterback Kevin Riley, who passed for 258 yards and three TDs in little more than a half against UC-Davis, on their first day of summer work.
"He caught a pass and I was like, 'OK, this kid, he's got a chance," Riley, a fifth-year senior, told the Oakland Tribune. "You just see how people have ball skills. And then he got on the field with pads and he was better with the pads on. He has instincts, and he's a great athlete, a great football player."
And that was before Allen's debut, which included a celebration penalty after he high-fived a spectator in the stands after his second TD. Allen said he was "caught up in the moment" and unaware that was taboo in the college game. Tedford likely forgave him on the spot.
During recruiting, Cal apparently didn't break off contact with Allen even after he had committed to Alabama. The Bears got their break when Allen's half-brother, Zach Maynard, opted to leave Buffalo when coach Turner Gill was hired by Kansas.
Allen and Maynard, a quarterback, wanted to attend the same school, and Maynard now is "grayshirting" at Cal and will be on scholarship when he enrolls in January.
When Alabama couldn't scholarship Maynard, the duo tripped to Cal and Clemson and also considered Penn State. They had attended summer camps at Cal and Oregon, with Cal on Allen's short list before he initially committed to Alabama.
Most recruiting services projected Allen as a safety, but most of his suitors told him to pick his position.
"I wanted the ball in my hands, so I picked receiver," Allen told the Tribune. "I played in an all-star game and DB was boring for me. I wasn't making any tackles, I wasn't making any plays. During the (high school) season, I had like 20 tackles a game.
"I really liked safety. But when you have a whole lot of athletes on the field and everybody is doing their job, you're not going to make too many plays."
That's not a worry now. Offense seems to suit him.
YEAR OF THE RUN? Week 1 in Big 12 non-league play left that impression.
For only the second time since the Big 12 was formed 15 years ago, three conference running backs topped 200 yards on the same day - Oklahoma State's Kendal Hunter (257), Kansas State's Daniel Thomas (234) and Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray (218).
The only previous time that happened in the Big 12 occurred in 1998. On Oct. 24, 1998, Kansas' David Winbush (268), Oklahoma's De'Mond Parker (220) and Williams (259) broke the 200-yard barrier.
(Note: Winbush's 268 yards came in a 33-17 upset of No. 17 CU in Lawrence.)
CU rushed for 115 yards against CSU, with tailback Rodney Stewart carrying 16 times for 68 yards.
Hawkins said his running attack "had some good moments . . . I don't think we did anything real exotic. At times when we laid our horns back we did OK. We only had 60 plays in the game, so it wasn't like we had a lot of other opportunities. There's certainly so more things we can do there, but at times we did well."
CU-CAL TIES: Former CU defensive back Ronnie Bradford is in his first season at Cal as an administrative assistant for the defense. Bradford played (10 seasons) and coached (nine) in the NFL, doing both for the Denver Broncos, before coming to Berkeley last winter. As a CU sophomore, Bradford blocked the extra point in the Orange Bowl that proved to be the difference in the Buffs' 10-9 win against Notre Dame for the 1990 National Championship. He was an all-Big Eight selection as a senior in 1992. Bradford's last NFL stop was as a defensive assistant with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009, working for Chiefs defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. Pendergast was a late-winter hire by Cal to replace former defensive coordinator Bob Gregory, who left for Boise State . . . . Cal's staff also includes O-line coach Steve Marshall, who coached CU's offensive line in 2000-2001 - the latter being the Buffs' Big 12 championship season. Marshall left CU to coach with the Houston Texans, where he stayed from 2002-05. Marshall, an assistant at seven schools (including Cal), spent 2006 out of coaching before joining the Cleveland Browns for a couple of seasons. He went to Berkeley in 2009 . . . . CU assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau coached Cal's receivers from 2002-05. He joined Hawkins' staff in 2006 as receivers coach, but now coaches the quarterbacks in addition to being the OC.
BUFF BITS: Hawkins reflected on redshirt freshman nickel back Parker Orms, who is scheduled to undergo season-ending knee surgery at a later date: "He a talented kid, a sparkplug . . . it's really sad for him, he's worked hard this offseason. We'll get him fixed up, get him healed up and get him back out there as soon as we can." . . . . Quarterback Tyler Hansen, making his first non-conference start, completed 17-of-25 passes for 192 yards and two TDs (one INT) against the Rams. Hawkins said Hansen "did a nice job . . . he wasn't perfect, like a lot of us." He also said Hansen's lone pick "wasn't entirely his doing." . . . . Cal's Memorial Stadium (72,516) is a "golden oldie," but Hawkins believes it will be "rocking" Saturday. "It's pretty lively . . . 'JT' (Jeff Tedford) has done a nice job there and obviously they've upped their expectations and been one of the better teams in the country. They've had some lively crowds there. It's a great setting; it's an older stadium but it has a lot of history and beautiful setting. It'll be rocking."